The coronavirus pandemic ruined the spring season, taking away the last chance for seniors to compete in high school and make lasting memories.
That includes celebrating senior day — an event high school athletes wait four years for to share their career accomplishments with family, coaches and fellow teammates.
But local coaches are trying to make those final moments special.
“Senior day is a big tradition in our school,” Egg Harbor Township baseball coach Bryan Carmichael said. “It’s a day to celebrate the kids and the commitment they made to the program. We honor the kids and their family. Our program is built around family.”
Carmichael, along with assistants Tom Armstrong and Ray Santiago, wanted to keep that tradition alive. Each went door-to-door May 15 to honor the team’s seven senior players — Sean Duffy, Bobby Baxter, Garrett Smith, Cole Gordon, Jeremy Labo, Ben Cericola and Will Kesnig — and senior managers Kylie Hafner and Kristina Griffin.
The seniors received their game caps — a program-wide black hat and the white cap that only varsity wears — an EHT baseball decal, lawn signs and game balls. The mothers were given flowers.
“This was their big day to be honored,” Carmichael said. “There were too many things taken away from them this spring. This was for them.”
Smith said when the season was postponed in March and eventually canceled earlier this month, the Eagles never had the chance to accept it as a team. He called the gesture “a sense of closure.”
“It’s obviously upsetting not having senior year to be able to play one last year with the guys I’ve played with for years now and for EHT, the town I grew up in,” said Smith, 17, who will play baseball next spring at Rowan University and major in radio, television and film.
“But it was really nice, and I appreciated what they did. They really can’t do much else about this, so to honor us as seniors this way was nice.”
St. Augustine lacrosse coach J.C. Valore and his staff drove around South Jersey on May 16 and presented a backpack stuffed with items to the eight seniors on the team — Dylan McNally, Joey Serafine, Brayden Steere, Logan Hone, Wil Carpenter, Steve DelleMonache, Colin Wingate and David Burr.
Inside were their pre-ordered shirts and hoodies, balls from their last practice together in March, their varsity letters and favorite foods from team bus rides. The coaches even tossed around the ball with the seniors.
“Our underclassmen played a role as well, launching a text campaign throughout the day where each one of them shared inspiration, laughs and memorable stories with our seniors,” Valore said. “While nothing can replace the field time, it certainly was a nice day for our seniors.”
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs most high school sports in the state, canceled the spring season May 4 after Gov. Phil Murphy closed all high school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.
Since then, Valore has posted appreciation for each senior on Twitter. Over the last few months, he also organized virtual team meetings, some with alumni guest speakers.
“I’ve always looked forward to senior year,” said Burr, 18, of Glassboro, Gloucester County. Burr was a first-team Press All-Star last season who is committed to play lacrosse at Rutgers.
“I think everyone does. It stinks we missed out on it, but it’s out of our hands. But (Valore) understands what we are going through. It’s just something nice for us to have. He is always thinking of us.”
Lower Cape May Regional softball coach Kiersten Hughes and her assistants also honored the team’s seniors May 16.
“They really wanted a season and, when we couldn’t, it was hard for them and I wanted to do something to boost their spirits up,” Hughes said. “They’ve done a lot for the program and I wanted to do something special.”
The second-year coach delivered personalized lawn signs to Joelle Klein, Emma Muldoon and Liv Krenzien. Each had yellow and blue letters with an action shot of the player, their name and “Congratulations Class of 2020.”
The seniors also received flowers with the stems going through a softball, which had their name and number.
“I think not having the season and ending it where we couldn’t even say goodbye and see each other, it was definitely a nice closure for them,” Hughes said, “and to know they are still thought about and in our eyes, still had that season with us.“